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Why We Need a New 9/11 Commission

By       (Page 1 of 1 pages)   2 comments
Message Andrew Mills
9/11 is unquestionably the most important event in American history since December 7, 1941, when Japanese forces attacked Pearl Harbor. The magnitude of its impact on America and the world cannot be overstated. The terrible acts of 9/11 and the events leading up to them deserve a thorough and unimpeachable investigation to learn the facts. And if some rogue elements within the U.S. government were complicit in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 9/11, it is critical that these elements be exposed and removed from power. A new commission is clearly called for because the investigation and report by the 9/11 Commission were badly flawed, as will be discussed below. The most important tools of any criminal investigators are the accounts of the eyewitnesses and first responders. The first thing the police do at an accident scene is to gather all witness accounts and within a week the insurance companies are also telephoning the witnesses to take their testimony. Many New York City firemen who were eyewitnesses are calling the Commission's report a cover-up, and victims' family organizations are saying the same thing. If it had been a comprehensive and thorough scientific investigation it would have looked like the investigation that followed the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. Although there may remain minor questions concerning some of the peripheral conclusions, the report on the Columbia accident on the whole stands without major dispute within the scientific community. Contrast this with the 9/11 Commission report, which sidestepped critical questions, and the FEMA 9/11 report and its major inconsistencies. Flaws in the Commission's Investigation Conflicts of Interest in the Commission One important reason for asking for a new truly independent commission is because of the conflicts of interest of the 9/11 Commission members and staff, particularly Philip Zelikow, Executive Director of the Commission. The 9/11 Family Steering Committee came to the conclusion that each of the commission members was placed on the commission to protect specific interests. For example, Jim Thompson's and Slade Gorton's law firms represented the airlines. Jamie Gorelick was on the board of Schlumberger, a large defense contracting company and had also served on a CIA advisory panel. John Lehman owned several companies that provided military components to defense contractors or directly to the government. But the most profound conflict of interest, one that compromised the breadth and integrity of the commission's investigation, was in the executive staff director, Philip Zelikow. He was a close colleague of Condoleezza Rice, and at the specific request of Rice had served on the Bush administration's transition team. This meant that as the Clinton administration was leaving office and the Bush Administration was coming into office, it was Zelikow's job to facilitate that transition. Because two of Zelikow's specialties are national security and terrorism, he was briefed about al Qaeda and bin Laden by outgoing National Security Advisor Sandy Berger, counter-terrorism czar Richard Clarke, and CIA Director George Tenet. These briefings took place from late 2000 through early 2001. Zelikow's job was to take that information and convey it to the Bush national security team. How could Zelikow direct an investigation whose mandate was at least in part to investigate the role Zelikow himself played in the transition time between the Clinton and Bush administrations-a transition that went to the heart of why the Bush administration underestimated or ignored the threat posed by al Qaeda and bin Laden? While the commissioners were the public face of the Commission, the real work was carried out behind the scenes by the staff-and there were about eighty staff members who were divided up into several key areas. Zelikow was in charge of those eighty staffers and the entire course of the investigation. He was the Commission's gatekeeper--all information that ended up in the final report was there only because Zelikow thought it should be there. In essence, the story told by the 9/11 Commission became the story that Zelikow wanted to tell. Zelikow, as Executive Director, was one of only two people from the Commission to be given primary access to the executive branch documents. As such, he received all the administration's documents relating to al Qaeda and 9/11. Zelikow provided a limited and censored group of documents to the commissioners, but only in a secure location. Commissioners could take handwritten notes about these documents, but these notes could not be removed from the classified location nor used in writing the Commission's final report. Zelikow designed the investigation so that staff was divided into individual teams, each team addressing one specific part of the investigation. Thus, no one segment of the staff was seeing the whole picture. The official excuse for 9/11 is that "nobody connected the dots," and yet Zelikow set up the Commission's own investigation so that no single investigator could feasibly "connect the dots" of the failure that occurred on 9/11. The other person given primary access to the administration's documents was Commissioner Jamie Gorelick, who ironically was also interviewed by the Commission as a witness regarding her former position as deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration. The Family Steering Committee issued a press release indicating their total dismay over the conflicts of interest exhibited by Zelikow and Gorelick. We should note here that Philip Zelikow was the primary author of the Administration's 2002 version of the National Security Strategy (generally known as NSS 2002), which turned the concept of 'preventive-preemptive warfare' into official American policy. The NSS 2000 said, among other things, "The events of September 11, 2001, . . .opened vast, new opportunities." Zelikow apparently believed that 9/11 had turned out to be a "good" thing. Then he wouldn't be inclined during the investigation to focus on any facts that would point the finger at specific federal officials, as this might spoil those "opportunities." Investigation and Questioning by Commission Not Tough Enough By late autumn of 2003, it became apparent to the Family Steering Committee that the questioning of the hearings was not tough enough and that the hearings were not identifying specific problems and holding people accountable. Witnesses would contradict their prior testimony and the Commission would fail to ask them why. This happened, for example, when Jane Garvey director of the FAA testified before the Commission. When she first appeared before the Commission, she laid out a timeline that described when the FAA knew the airplanes on 9/11 were confirmed to be hijacked. This is important because none of the protocols in place for hijackings were followed on 9/11 and none of the failures were explained. When she was invited back for a second time, she submitted a new timeline, and the commissioners never pressed for a specific answer as to why Garvey had changed her story. When Kristen Breitweiser of the Family Steering Committee asked a commissioner why more pointed questions weren't being asked of the witnesses, she was told: "It's not the Washington way." Investigation Failed to Address Most of the Important Questions The Family Steering Committee (FSC) has reviewed the 9/11 Commission Report in depth and compared it to the list of questions they had presented to the Commission over the course of its work. As a result of this review, Mindy Kleinberg and Lorie van Auken of the FSC have issued a 'report card' on the Commission's work entitled, FSC Questions to the 9/11 Commission with Ratings of its Performance in Providing Answers, which lists each question and the rating they applied to each. This document can be downloaded from the following site: Their report card showed that of the major questions the FSC asked the Commission to pursue as they questioned officials, only 10% were satisfactorily answered, while 25% were inadequately answered and 65% were generally ignored or omitted from the report. A petition to Congress signed by 25 military, intelligence and security veterans states in part, "Omission is one of the major flaws in the Commission's report. We are aware of significant issues and cases that were duly reported to the Commission by those of us with direct knowledge, but somehow escaped attention. The omission of such serious and applicable issues and information by itself renders the report flawed, and casts doubt on the validity of many of its recommendations." Many observers, such as Paul Hellyer former Minister of National Defense of Canada, believe the inquiry carried out by the 9/11 Commission was very shallow and superficial, and that the inquiries should have been undertaken in much greater depth. Specific Omissions and Contradictions in the 9/11 Commission Report 1. Failure to even mention the Able Danger program of the Department of Defense (DOD). Intelligence officers working in the Able Danger program allegedly identified Mohammed Atta and at least two other terrorists a year or more before 9/11. When they tried to transfer that information to the FBI they were denied. Even the most junior investigator would immediately know that the name and photo ID of Mohammed Atta in 2000 would be precisely the kind of tactical intelligence the FBI has many times employed to prevent attacks and arrest terrorists, yet the 9/11 Commission inexplicably concluded Able Danger was historically insignificant. The 9/11 Commission staff refused to perform any in-depth review or investigate the issues relative to Able Danger that were presented to them. They effectively dismissed the importance of Able Danger based on what many believe was their preconceived conclusion on the 9/11 story they wished to tell. 2. Failure to address serious intelligence issues. For example, Sibel Edmonds, a former FBI translator and a witness to the Commission, made the commissioners aware of purposeful mistranslations and late translations of critical documents leading up to 9/11. But the Commission did not pursue this. Thus, one must assume that other serious issues were in the same manner omitted from the report. These omissions cast doubt on the validity of the report and therefore on its conclusions and recommendations. 3. Conflicting Air-Defense Timelines. The Commission's report presents a timeline of air-defense response that differs radically from all the previous official accounts. The original account given two days after the attacks was presented by General Richard Myers, the acting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on 9/11. He appeared on September 13, 2001 before the Senate for hearings, scheduled many weeks earlier, to consider his promotion to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. During the hearing Myers told the Senate that no fighter jets were scrambled to intercept any of the 9/11 flights until after the Pentagon was struck, which occurred at 9:37 AM. On September 18, 2001, General Ralph Eberhart, commanding officer of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), presented another timeline, in which he stated that NORAD had scrambled two squads of fighters prior to the crash of United Airlines Flight 175 into the south tower of the World Trade Center (WTC). NORAD stuck to this second version of the timeline of events, with minor revisions. And in a handsome four-color book entitled Air War over America, commissioned by NORAD and written by Leslie Filson, a historian hired by the Air Force, NORAD's version of the events on 9/11 is described in some detail. The book implies that NORAD had in fact received timely warnings from the FAA to which NORAD had responded. Another timeline was adopted by the Commission, one which conflicts significantly from NORAD's timeline, and which effectively places almost all the blame for the delayed air defense response on the FAA. This new timeline was presented in June 2004 in a statement by the commission staff. Throughout their testimony before the Commission, on the other hand, FAA officials maintained that they had in fact provided adequate and timely information to NORAD via phone bridges. In developing their own timeline, the Commission chose to ignore almost all previous testimony and submissions from NORAD and the FAA. The Commission apparently felt a need to make the FAA a scapegoat for the lack of fighter response on 9/11. 4. Failure to mention or explore the relation between the ISI (the Pakistani Intelligence Service) and 9/11. Why did the head of the ISI, Lieutenant-General Mahmoud Ahmad, wire $100,000 to Mohammed Atta before the attacks, and then why was he in Washington, D.C. meeting with the heads of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees on the day of the attacks? The Commission ignored these questions. 5. Failure to identify the groups who benefited from the 9/11 attacks. The Commission failed to connect the dots and identify those people and groups who, at least by early 2004, had gained and profited by the 9/11 attacks and the resulting war on terror. 6. Failure to address the nearly free-fall collapse of World Trade Center Towers One and Two. 7. Failure to include even one mention of the collapse of WTC 7. The Commission's report makes no mention of the total collapse of WTC 7 at the World Trade Center in the late afternoon of 9/11/01. The report does mention the fact that the Office of Emergency Management's (OEM) was located on the 23rd floor of WTC 7. And it notes that at 9:30 AM on that day a senior OEM official ordered the evacuation of the facility after a Secret Service agent advised him that additional commercial planes had not been accounted for. But the fact that the report completely fails to mention, or discuss the causes of, the nearly free-fall collapse of WTC 7 is strange. 8. Failure to document or analyze wreckage at the attack/crash sites. The Commission's report contains no reference to the wreckage of the four airplanes. Neither is there any mention of building remains or rubble. The only reference to the words 'wreckage' or 'remains' was in relation to the asbestos content of the dust from the Twin Towers. Thus, the Commission appears to have accepted without comment the fact that the rubble and steel fragments from the Twin Towers, and the airplane wreckage from Flight 77 at the Pentagon, were removed and disposed of without any expert examination. (Available photographs of the crash scene at the Pentagon reveal no evidence of parts that could be associated with the remains of a Boeing 757 airplane.) The report, thus, fails to mention that none of the wreckage/rubble underwent the thoroughgoing forensic investigation that would have assisted in understanding the nature of the crashes and subsequent building collapses. 9. Failure to discuss the different versions of the passenger lists for the hijacked airliners. No mention was made in the report of the fact that differing passenger lists emerged in the first few weeks after the attacks, including the fact that most lists failed to show anyone with a Middle Eastern name. In addition, the report surprisingly fails to provide: (1) the names of the passengers on each flight; or even (2) the number of passengers on board each airplane. Examples of Questions the Commission Should have Pursued but Didn't 1. Why were people in the South Tower told by the New York/New Jersey Port Authority staff to remain at their desks and not evacuate the building immediately after the North Tower was hit? Many lives would have been saved if an excavation order had been given immediately after Tower One had been hit. 2. According to a New York Times article of September 12, 2001, within hours of the attacks FBI agents were at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University seeking information, and the next day authorities had identified accomplices in several cities who had been involved in planning the attacks the day before. Biographies had been prepared of each of the identified members of the hijacking teams, including their recent movements. How was all this information produced and gathered together on such a short notice? It seems almost impossible without prior knowledge, and if they had such prior knowledge, why didn't they act on it and arrest or detain the hijackers? 3. How was the FBI able to find Mohammed Atta's car at Logan airport so quickly? If the FBI received a tip, how is that possible when the photo of Atta was not shown until days after the attacks? 4. How is it that a videographer just happened to have his video camera focused at just the right place on the North Tower when Flight 11 flew into it? This deserves some detailed inquiry. 5. The Administration claimed that its only objective immediately after 9/11 was to hunt down Osama bin Laden and destroy al Qaeda. But reliable reports indicate that within hours or a day after the tragedy, President Bush and his aides were focusing much more on using 9/11 as an excuse to attack Iraq. The idea of attacking Afghanistan didn't appear to be their main priority. Why would that have been? 6. Only a military aircraft, not a civilian plane flown by al Qaeda, would have given off the 'friendly' signal needed to disable the Pentagon's anti-aircraft missile batteries as it approached the building. Why did the Commission not investigate this? * * * The wrong-headed and undemocratic policies pursued by the present Administration have their roots in the 9/11 attacks. In a national poll conducted by the Scripps Howard News Service and Ohio University in August 2006, 36 percent of respondents said it is "very likely" or "somewhat likely" that federal officials either participated in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon or took no action to stop them "because they wanted the United States to go to war in the Middle East." A poll conducted by Zogby International in May 2006 indicates that 42% of American residents believe there has been a cover up and 45% think "Congress or an International Tribunal should re-investigate the attacks, including whether any US government officials consciously allowed or helped facilitate their success." Given the results of these polls, it's no surprise that the propaganda specialists in the State Department have started to churn out attack websites targeting 9/11 skepticism. Nor that the normal channels of media have followed suit (Time, New York Times, etc.). Even some on the 'left' have come up with attack articles. Alternet recently published an attack piece by the Progressive's Matthew Rothschild. The line seems to be that no matter what alternative theories about 9/11 are proposed, the official story about 9/11 should not be questioned. It is sacrosanct. The American people have the right to a new truly independent commission to investigate the full story of 9/11 including the many still unanswered questions about the attacks, which should lead to a clear sense of who and what agencies were responsible for the failures. No one in the government has been reprimanded, let alone fired, as a result of the enormous failures that allowed the 9/11 attacks to occur. Those having responsibility for the failures must be held accountable. Dennis Kucinich is now the Chair of the new Subcommittee on Domestic Policy under the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Prior to the 2006 elections in a piece for Truthdig, Dennis Kucinich stated the following: "I will not prejudice with any criticism or charges any oversight hearings of any committee I may chair in the next Congress. However, I do know that the American people still have unanswered questions about 9/11, WMDs, the abandonment of international law and the Geneva Conventions, the war in Iraq, the White House Iraq Group, the Rendon propaganda machine, Afghanistan, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, the Pat Tillman case, Iraq war casualties, the missing $10.8 billion in Iraq reconstruction funds, the human and economic toll of the war, rendition, wiretapping, domestic spying, and plans for an attack on Iran" Now is the time to press Dennis Kucinich to take the lead in his new subcommittee to start the re-investigation process. You can call his office at (202) 225-5871, fax him at (202) 225-5745, or write him at 2445 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515.
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Andrew Mills is a hydrologist serving as a consultant to local environmental consulting firms. He and his wife have six children and 18 grandchildren. He was active in the civil rights movement in the 1950's and 1960's, and spent 9 years in (more...)
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